The Kingdom of Nerdalot

Posted by on Oct 10, 2011 in Tokyo, Travel Volunteer Journey | 2 Comments
The Kingdom of Nerdalot

All of Australia, Denmark, Norway and handful of Pacific islands, that’s how many people are in Tokyo. Or Canada – every man, woman and child that lives in the wide vastness of Canada, all swallowed up by a single, ravenous city.

If the last few weeks have taught us little else, it’s that Japan is much more than Tokyo; just as Britain is much more than London. But even knowing that, we’ve long been excited about visiting the biggest city the world has ever seen.

Our schedule only allows us three days, but we decided to start in what many people – us included – imagine as the very epitome of Tokyo, Akihabara. Immediately following the Second World War, this place flourished as American troops and locals flooded the area with blackmarket goods, everyone looking to make a quick buck as the country was reborn. From there it became more legitimate as Japan grew, eventually becoming a home for the latest technology. The first Walkmans and games consoles were bought right here – at times it must have felt like the world’s future was being born in the street. It was the perfect sort of place for imaginations to thrive, where anything real or otherwise would have seemed possible.

Natural, then, that this would become the home of the otaku (or nerd). For them Akihabara was where anyone, no matter how socially inept, could be accepted, thrive even. Today this means that Akihabara is a kind of Mecca for dweebs, the neighbourhood where you won’t be judged if you fancy a stroll dressed as your favourite comic book character.

It’s also the place that spawned maid cafés, the ultimate Manga fantasy for men with big imaginations and little experience of girlfriends. We decided to check one out for lunch and were ushered in by a grinning young woman in a skimpy French maid’s outfit. The moment the lift doors opened there was a chorus of screeches and squeals, but like any good ruse, anything more than that would have cost money. A cartoon-like waitress tottered over with a menu, but it felt more like we were in an amphetamine-fuelled anime brothel than a restaurant. We looked at what was on offer – the garish décor and the all-male clientèle – and decided to go somewhere else, the reek of smoke and lechery hanging heavy in the air as we squeezed back into the elevator.


The girls-in-uniform theme is unavoidable around Akiba (its modern nickname). For a lot of people it’s harmless fun – a bit like the Carry On films that we used to enjoy so much at home. But in those films everyone was laughing at everyone else, men got as much screen time as women and the star of the show was gay.

Akiba’s style of titillation seems to focus a little too much on young girls school outfits for our comfort level – especially as many of them are simultaneously depicted as being endowed like Pamela Anderson in her pomp.

Still, overall it’s an exciting place to be, especially for nerds like us. Virtual girlfriends aside, the place is loaded with gadgetry, film memorabilia and a colossal amount of video games. We drank it all in with geeky glee.

I was also able to fulfil a long-held ambition to play computer games in a Tokyo arcade. It was hot and it was loud and the kids inside were exceptionally talented – just as I’d always imagined. I’ve devoted weeks of my life to gaming – months, in fact. If you totalled every minute on every console and machine, would it stretch to a year of doing literally nothing else? Hell, I think that I’d have covered that at university alone.

Of course it’s different these days. Year after year I spend less and less time gaming. Unfortunately, today the lack of practise really showed. Half a lifetime ago, I could complete the classic Japanese fighting game Tekken on a single credit, leaving a small crowd of fellow button-bashers awed by my prowess. Today I muddled through four rounds, drunk on nostalgia, before one of the aforementioned nerdlings interrupted my game with a challenge.

Except it wasn’t so much a challenge as it was a merciless brutalising. I lost two rounds to zero and left quickly thereafter.

In a separate arcade, hidden behind all the latest 3D wonders, I found Street Fighter II, perhaps the most popular fighting game of all time. Again, happy memories flooded back until I started to actually play. I narrowly scraped through the first fight before being unceremoniously trashed in the second – by the computer.

So I achieved my dream, but at what cost? My childhood, that’s what. In place of being exceptional at those few things (the games) I have now become average at a great number of others. This, I suppose is what growing up is all about: the rounding of a person into a competent, unexceptional whole.

So goodbye childhood – farewell, old times. Farewell forever!

But hello Tokyo, you big, strange flower of the east.














  1. Kat
    October 10, 2011

    Akihabara is definitely on my “must see” places when I go to Japan. It’s also where I know I’ll end up spending all my pocket money for the number of things I want to buy haha.

    The fandom devoted to school girls and maids is massive. I can’t even begin to explain it.

  2. I Nengah Sugita
    October 13, 2011

    Akihabara is the electronic heaven for me, I remember bought RAM chip for my laptop several years ago I spent a lot of time there. Enjoy your time there!